Inside No. 9 – ‘Private View’

Series 3, Episode 6


‘Private View’ is set at a an exclusive art gallery, with 7 people selected to attend, but it seems random as none of them are similar and none know each other. As often with Inside No. 9, there’s a lot of nightmare fuel from the start…

At the beginning of the episode is a surprise cameo, as it wasn’t publicised before the episode was broadcast. It is none other than Peter Kay, who is a very big name in British TV, and since at least Psycho many horror films have chosen to kill off the character played by their biggest star first, and we see that tradition continued here, in this case it happens within the first few minutes.

Peter Kay is playing a hospital worker named Neil. He is meant to chaperone a visually impaired attendee to the gallery, but is shoved onto a chair by an unseen assailant…
and the chair has two blades sticking out of it, so he is killed!

Some time later, we see that the gallery is in a basement and is titled Fragments. Working there is sarcastic, tattoo-covered waitress Bea (Monsterrat Lombard).

The people invited to the gallery start to arrive.

There is reality TV star Carrie (Morgana Robinson). She says she was in BB8, which is indeed Big Brother 8, but a different one from the one that happened in reality. In this fictional one, other contestants included Trevor and Viveca, and Carrie’s big moment was putting bananas in chilli. I can’t help but wonder how Carrie would have fared in our BB8 though (That was the one with Charley, Chanelle, twins Sam & Amanda and which Brian Belo won).

Art lecturer Maurice (Reece Shearsmith) has also been invited. He doesn’t care much for the exhibition though. He describes one where mannequin limbs are hanging down from the ceiling with ropes as looking like a “gas explosion in Debenhams”, which is a pretty good description of it really.

Two people enter together, but they just met on the way. They are a seemingly cheery Irish woman named Jean (Fiona Shaw) and Steve Pemberton’s character, who is a man who works in Health and Safety named Kenneth Williams! Everyone mentions that he has the same name as the famous Carry On films actor. The Kenneth Williams we meet here however is incredibly dull, grumpy and humourless. To be fair, he’s most likely had to endure a lifetime of people shouting Carry On quotes to him.

Finally, there is a well-spoken visually impaired author named Patricia (Felicity Kendall).

With everyone in, a face is projected onto a giant white bust. (That’s a bust as in a head and shoulder sculpture, not… well, you know). This is the artist, Elliot Quinn (Johnny Flynn). It is a pre-recorded message. He says he died three years ago, he knew he was going to die, and one of the last things he did was plan this installation, Fragments. He says that everyone has been hand-picked to attend the private view, and he hopes that by the end they will know why.

Carrie and Maurice see Neil sat in the chair. They think it’s all just part of the exhibition at first, Maurice still does even after the body has fallen off the chair! But no, the horrific truth is Neil has been murdered. The others come in and they try to find the lift to get out of the basement, and to find a phone to call the police. (Mobile signals don’t work in the basement). When they get the lift open, they find Bea, and she has been strangled to death with the telephone cord!

Patricia and Carrie stay behind while the others look for a way out. Maurice, Kenneth and Jean find that the only way out is chained up from the outside.

Patricia mentions that the books she writes are erotic and pornographic novels. (“After that 50 Shades nonsense I had to up my game”).

As with films like Scream sometimes horror story characters ‘know’ they are in the middle of a story, and Patricia lampshades their situation. “This is all a bit Agatha Christie isn’t it? None of us know each other, we’ve all been invited by someone we’ve never met, and now it seems we’re being picked off one by one”. For Carrie, it reminds her of being on Big Brother. She says at least this time she’s finished in the final 5, having reached 6th place on Big Brother. Sadly, she doesn’t last much longer than that here. She drinks from a bottle of champagne and starts choking. Smoke comes out from her, her face is burnt and she falls down dead.

Patricia discovers Carrie’s body, and calls for help until she hears the sound of metal clanging. She fears she is going to be next, so tries to find a place to hide. She ends up in the toilets. After changing her mind about her first choice of cubicle to hide in (“I’m sorry, that stinks”), she hides in another one. Then we see a point of view shot from the killer, searching the toilets, and we are informed the identity of the killer by a reflection in the mirror. It is Jean. She’s about to leave until she overhears a mobile phone voice which says Patricia has been searching for “How to use a stiletto as a weapon”.

We next see Jean wiping her hands and then screaming, claiming she has “discovered” Patricia’s body. Patricia has had her eyes gouged out.

Kenneth, Maurice and Jean go outside. Maurice has found some pliers to cut the chain to get out. However, before he can do that, Kenneth knocks him out. He says he found Maurice’s heart medicine on Carrie’s body. He jumped to the wrong conclusion, that Maurice was the killer. In fact, Jean probably planted the pills on Carrie to make Maurice look guilty, and now she puts a plastic bag over Kenneth’s head and suffocates him!

Maurice wakes up, and has become part of the exhibition. Elliot’s projection is playing once again, and there is Jean, covered in blood. She reveals that Elliot was her son. He died of a brain tumour, but as all his other organs were healthy he decided to donate them all. He asked his mother to keep tabs on who got the organs. That was to be his art, his gift to the world, that he had given others opportunity. That’s why he wanted them all together. ‘Fragments’ coming back together as a whole. It’s quite a sweet thought really. But…

Jean was angry with what the patients did with their lives, and therefore Elliot’s organs.

Neil received a kidney. After he had the transplant, he still got diabetes from overeating. Bea got a skin graft, the only reason she needed it in the first place was because she started a fire for attention (Jean says while she’s at it she didn’t approve of Bea’s tattoos either). Carrie got a liver transplant and still drunk huge amounts of alcohol on BB8.

After this it becomes a bit more of a stretch. Patricia was given new eyes, and they stopped working within a year, which Jean blames on Patricia “squinting at her own pornographic writings”. Kenneth had a lung transplant, and Jean says he still smoked afterwards. Maurice points out Kenneth was now only smoking e-cigarettes.

Maurice then says that yes, he had a heart transplant, but he looked after it, he exercised and was careful with what he ate. Jean tells him he became a “heartless critic”. Maurice says “That’s a bit of a stretch! I’m a lecturer, not a critic!”.

Of course, Jean doesn’t give a damn at this point. It should be noted that she has all of those organs in individual jars, so clearly she is an absolute psycho. She’s probably being a completeist. She wants Elliot’s heart back from Maurice, whether he looked after it or not, and advances on him with a syringe…

We cut to a later date, and find that the exhibition, with the organs in jars included, has won the Turner Prize! But the winner is Maurice, who somehow got control of the situation. So either he managed to get Jean’s heart instead, or maybe that’s Jean wearing his skin as suit. It’s not a great ending to be honest, it seems to have been tacked on so they could have an ending. But it IS a great episode.

I suspected that Jean was the killer early on in the episode, but I wasn’t sure why. With hindsight, she is remarkably blasé about all the dead bodies turning up. Even before then, while she seems in good spirits, there was always something slightly creepy about it. Fiona Shaw was fantastic at the part, making Jean so sinister, and pretty natural as well. She never really seemed over-the-top even though she is psychotic, which made her more frightening in a way. While I wouldn’t say I felt sorry for her, I think it’s understandable why she was bitter and angry with some of them. Of course, that doesn’t justify her actions at all. She goes about a thousand trillion miles over the line. Still, a lot to get across with this character, and Fiona Shaw did it brilliantly.

Sometimes on messageboards talking about films/TV with a lot deaths, you get people asking which character you’d like to have saved. For me, it would havve been Patricia. She was an excellent character. As with Janet in ‘Empty Orchestra’, while her disability was relevant to the plot, as a character she wasn’t completely defined by it. Patricia was a very funny and likeable character too, and had some of the best lines, which were highlighted in the trailers. The scene where she is trying to find a place to hide from the killer was particularly scary, and got laughs in too, with her reaction to smell of one of the toilets and what she had been searching for on her phone. A lot of credit has to go to Felicity Kendall, who was great at the part.

One of the best lines in the whole episode was from Patricia, on murder mysteries: “That’s the trouble with the genre nowadays. Too much murder, not enough mystery”.

I also loved Morgana Robinson as Carrie, as she was spot on as the ditzy fame-seeking reality TV contestant. I liked this line from her. “I can’t be here! I’m meant to be at Edwina Currie’s perfume launch at 9 o’clock!”

‘Private View’ has been compared to the 1973 horror-comedy film Theatre Of Blood starring Vincent Price, where a theatre actor fakes his own death and then proceeds to murder his critics one by one. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say how close it is. ‘Private View’ did remind me of films I have seen though, such as the 1976 film Murder By Death, and the 1985 film Clue, based on the board game Cluedo. Both of those were horror-comedy murder mystery pastiches.

Interestingly, the episode has a mention of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, and that has a similar theme, where some of the children are eliminated from the tour by succumbing to their sins or flaws.

All of the people Jean kills are killed in a way which has something to do with their organ transplant too. Neil is stabbed in his kidneys. Bea is strangled where her skin graft is. Carrie is killed via a poisoned alcoholic drink when she had a liver transplant. Patricia’s eyes are gouged out. Kenneth had a lung transplant and he is suffocated.

‘Private View’ had a brilliant cast and a clever main story, and was a fine end to a series which has on the whole been the strongest Inside No. 9 series to date. I’m definitely pleased they are making another series!

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